SACRIFICIAL LAMBS ON CHURCH PEWS: IS THERE JUSTICE?
Respect accorded to church ministers is expressed in the way congregations greet the pastor, address him/her,support his/her ministry/accept to be supported by him or her and in daily discussions about the ministry the the minister leads. in some circumstances people would want to tell others about their ministries and the leadership involved. but this seemed not the case with one person. Vellah (not her real name)disclosed some issues that need other people to hear her . As a young church choir member, her pastor liked her involvement in ministry-singing, leading youth,serving visitors and mobilizing young people to clean and organize the pews in the church. she accorded the church minister all the respect he deserved and was a model to many other young people. Because of her exemplary work, she was offered a place to work in one of the church institution as a cleaner. One day, her pastor asked her to come along to stay with them since the wife was going for further studies and pastors children were still very small. seeing the need to support the pastor, the family of Vellah agreed that she goes during the week back comes back to her parents home on Saturday and Sunday, to return back on Monday morning. All went well for the first few months. during the 3rd month, on a Friday evening, the pastor asked Vellah to stay because some guests were coming over. she agreed and prepared meals for the guests. when the guests had left, Vellah cleaned everything so that she could leave the earliest possible to her parents home as agreed. At night, unusual things happened. the pastor sneaked into Vellah's room.He covered her mouth with a piece of cloth and threatened to kill her if made any noise. the pastor went ahead and sexually harassed Vellah, leaving her pregnant. Because of shame, she could not dare tell anyone. coupled with the threats from the pastor,Vellah decided silence was the way out. she had to lie to other people who asked her sometime when the pregnancy was showing that it was he boyfriend living away in another city.later when her friend disclosed to local church council that the pastor is responsible for the pregnancy, the council took called for disiplinary committee to address the issue. The pastor refused to take responsibility of his actions. He continually lied that it wasn't him. And even when the church disciplinary committee got all the evidence, they decided to rule in favor of the pastor. Vellah remembers well being asked to appear before the committee and was told that her services as a cleaner were no longer needed. she was asked to pack and leave the house given to her by the church. Jobless and with no place to stay, she opted to rent a house in the neighborhood using her savings. On the one hand, the pastor was allowed to continue serving since the committee opted to sacrifice a woman in his place. It was later discovered that the pastor had issues in his marriage that were not resolved.one may wonder why the church was not willing to address the moral issues properly, applied double standards, and maintained the status quo.As i listened to Vellah, I see both the minister and the congregant needed pastoral response to help them work out the moral issues where both genders were involved.the pastor needed guidance on sexual ethics and moral issues in the church. On the other hand Vellah need to be supported in her hurts, to work on issues of forgiveness, guilt, shame and acceptance, and how she could move on.But instead, she was made to suffer, and as one of the sacrificial lambs from church pews.she suffered the injustice of the disciplinary committee, and had her parents trust in the pastor betrayed. Vellah wonders if she should still accord the pastor the respect ...!